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Cannavaro was pushed out at former club Napoli but showed he had gas left at Sassuolo.
One of the more surprising storylines in the first half of last season was the feud between Napoli manager Rafael Benitez and former club captain Paolo Cannavaro.
A native Napolitano, Cannavaro had worn the armband since the club returned to the top flight following its reformation. He is currently sixth all-time in career appearances for the Partenopei. But for reasons unknown, when Benitez arrived at the San Paolo, Cannavaro suddenly found himself on the bench.
In the three games he did appear in, Napoli had won two, drawn one and only conceded twice.
Then came a substitute appearance against Roma. Cannavaro conceded a free kick that the Giallorossi converted into a goal and was later given a second booking following a penalty call that, on replay, looked dubious at best.
Benitez never used him again.
The rift caused controversy. Marco Materazzi, a fellow member of the centre-back fraternity who had his differences with Benitez when they were together at Inter, told Radio CRC (h/t Goal) last December that the benching "didn't seem right."
Cannavaro's more famous brother, Fabio, was by all accounts enraged.
The situation came to a head at the end of the winter transfer window when Cannavaro was loaned to Sassuolo, who made the move permanent in July.
While at Sassuolo, Cannavaro showed a little of his old self. WhoScored.com clocked him as making 2.6 interceptions per match in the 16 games he started for the Neroverdi. His average of 1.4 tackles per match may seem pedestrian, but he has never been a high-volume tackler in his career, only ever going as high as 1.9 per match in league play.
He turned 33 in the offseason, but those numbers suggest that he still has some gas left in his tank.
Cannavaro's experience would make a perfect complement to 22-year-old U21 international Luca Antei, who had a good season last year. Cannavaro can help him to fulfill his potential and reassert himself as a defensive force at the same time.
Expect the two to develop into a solid central pairing and improve a leaky Neroverdi defense, with the elder statesman playing a key role.